It is two years since you elected me as your new President in 2019 and I still feel proud and privileged to be entrusted with the responsibility to lead you into what I am sure is a positive and exciting future for our sport.
But what an extraordinary two years it has been for communities and nations around the world.
None of us could have predicted that 6 months after the successful Vitality Netball World Cup 2019 hosted by England Netball in Liverpool we would be facing the global challenge of a pandemic that has had, and is still having, a profound impact on our communities and our netball family. Many of you may have lost cherished family members, friends and colleagues to the virus. And we have also seen a rise in the number of natural disasters such as the recent volcanic eruptions in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Each one of these tests the courage, compassion, adaptability and resilience of our communities, and our Netball family.
And we are all having to be agile in adapting to new ways of working in our changing world.
I am very proud of the way in which our Netball family, with its huge dependence on volunteers, has managed this unique challenge in a socially responsible way.
There are countless examples of how you have shown strong leadership and a willingness to adapt where it has been possible to enable safe play. Many of you have provided online initiatives for training, learning and for wellbeing and have been willing to share your experience to help others.
With adversity comes opportunity and probably the most significant adaptation made this year was how we learned to connect relatively easily and more frequently online. Video conferencing platforms have enabled us to communicate and consult, more than in any previous year, on all the significant Board decisions that impact our Members and on the development of our new strategy.
Virtual Board, Committee and Panel meetings have been more frequent and more cost-effective. Virtual roadshows and webinars, with those who lead our Member nations and Regional Federations, are here to stay.
While we must acknowledge the current challenges, we have much to look forward to with;
- The Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in July 2022;
- The Netball World Cup 2023 qualifying events in our Regions in 2022;
- Netball South Africa hosting the NWC2023 in Cape town;
- Netball World Youth Cup in 2025 with the host soon to be revealed;
- Netball World Cup 2027 to be hosted by Netball Australia in Sydney in their centenary year;
- The possibility of the Olympic Games being held in Brisbane, Australia in 2032 – creating an opportunity for World Netball to explore the inclusion of netball with the organising committee and the IOC;
- And we have a new strategic plan and brand which sets out our commitment to grow, to play and to inspire.
Setbacks, such as the forced cancellation of the Netball World Youth Cup, due to be held in Fiji this year, because of Covid-19, will be overcome over time and with your support we can be sure that ‘World Netball; will continue to grow, to play and to inspire’.
With your help we have developed an ambitious and progressive plan that builds on Netball 2020, reflects your feedback, gives athletes a voice in our ongoing decision making and will ensure that netball continues to thrive.
We will explore with you how we can develop our sport so that it is open to all and welcomes netballers around the world irrespective of their gender, race, age or ability.
We will invest resources in helping netball grow and we will support the establishment of a programme that will help develop our leaders for the future – we look forward to sharing more about these initiatives later in 2021.
Thank you to all Member Nations and our Regions and the huge number of your members, staff and volunteers who support our sports on and off the court.
Let’s look forward with determination and optimism.
Let’s demonstrate what we can achieve when we work together.
Let’s Grow, Play and Inspire.
Before closing I must acknowledge that today we will be saying farewell and thank you to Sue Taylor AM for her huge contribution to our sport over many, many years, rising from the umpiring ranks to contributing 14 years on our Board and 10 as Vice President.
It’s rare in our history that any Vice President has ever been asked to Chair a Congress and uniquely this will be Sue’s second consecutive meeting in that role and I know it is very safe hands.
Sue, we will miss you and thank you for your unique contribution to our leadership team which has now been captured by the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) through your appointment to their new Ethics Commission and congratulations too on recently being awarded life membership of Commonwealth Games Australia.
Finally, you will be electing our new Vice President today. Shirley Hooper, a current Board member, is the sole nominee and has my full support.
It’s fitting that I close with a very big thank you to all my colleagues on the World Netball Board and to all those who serve on our netball committees, working groups and panels around the world.
Together we are helping us to create a better world through netball.
Liz Nicholl CBE
World Netball President